Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has said that he hopes Bernie Ecclestone's prediction about the contraction of Europe's involvement in the F1 world championship does not come to pass - for the integrity of the sport.
Speaking to Italy's Autosprint
magazine, di Montezemolo admitted that he was worried by F1 ringmaster Ecclestone's recent claim that the European portion of the calendar could shrink to as little as five races, with more and more dates being handed to well-heeled events in other parts of the world [see story here
di Montezemolo, twice credited with resurrecting Ferrari's F1 fortunes in separate stints at the head of the most famous team in the sport, acknowledged all that Ecclestone had done for the category over the years, but insisted that suggestions that it ought to abandon its heartland - every one of the twelve competing teams is based in Europe, as are the majority of the most iconic venues - were misguided.
“I give him credit that, in all these years, he has always had great respect for the role and importance of Ferrari in F1, but I cannot accept this trend of F1 going away from Europe," the Italian commented, "We cannot abandon our continent, because it represents the history of F1."
The 2012 season is poised to be the biggest on record, with 20 races on the schedule, and both Ecclestone and the teams have cast doubt on whether more events can be accommodated in order to satisfy the demand from around the world. If there is to be no further expansion, then existing races will need to be culled and, while there are natural candidates for the axe, Ecclestone's bid to spread the sport's appeal into the furthest reaches of the globe is also likely to affect some of the longest-standing.
Although the British Grand Prix can breathe a little easier given the 17-year deal it signed in 2010, others such as Belgium and Germany are having to resort to circuit or date sharing in order to remain a part of the calendar. Germany's race is currently being alternated between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim as neither circuit can justify the cost of hosting on a more regular basis, while Spa-Francorchamps looks set to enter into an agreement to host on alternate years with a reinstated French round. Spain may be forced to follow the German route, with its event switching between Barcelona and Valencia if the country is restricted to one round rather than two, while Turkey has already become a casualty of the recent expansion that has seen Abu Dhabi, Korea and India added to schedule in recent years.
Ironically, the Korean round now appears in doubt after the discovery that there had been no further development at the KIC venue since 2010, while the Bahrain and USGP slots on the 2012 calendar could yet fall by the wayside for political and logistical reasons.
“It's fine that F1 goes all over the world, but we must not exaggerate by going to race in deserts or where there is no culture for racing," di Montezemolo continued, referring to the poor attendance at rounds such as Korea, Turkey and Bahrain, “For years now, the calendar has missed a historic race like France, and now a legendary circuit like Spa is at risk - to be replaced with what? I don't know if Ecclestone really said there will only be five European races left, but I don't believe it.”